Turkish Airlines: The flag-carrier has achieved global reach with its light-hearted sports-stars ad

Marketing's unique weekly analysis of advertisement recall in association with TNS.

Apparently, this is the most-watched ad yet on YouTube. It received more than 100m views, 100,000 likes and 900,000 shares in its first week - pretty amazing statistics. So, why is the ad such a phenomenon?

The simple, but rather depressing, answer is that Turkish Airlines has bought the presence of two of the biggest sports stars in the world. Footballer Lionel Messi and basketball player Kobe Bryant are smart choices, in the sense that between them they cover off the soccer world and the US. Both are renowned as being the best of the best in their respective fields.

As a result of their presence, I'm sure this ad will force reappraisal of Turkish Airlines to a degree. It puts it on the map as having scale, ambition and deep pockets. On some level, it probably does make you think that, if the company can afford those stars, it can probably afford to buy quality equipment and invest in its product and service.

Last week, I asked some guys from our Turkish office what they thought. For them, it was a matter of national pride. A Turkish brand playing on a global scale and being paired with the best of the best. So, on that level, I suspect the ad will have done a fantastic job in Turkey and among Turkish Airlines staff.

Nonetheless, as a sniffy London adland type, I can't help thinking what a waste. To have signed up two such big stars and then done nothing surprising with them is tragic. Even if neither of them can act and they weren't on the shoot at the same time, surely it could have done something more imaginative?

So, I remain cynical about Turkish Airline's strategy. Someone buying themselves into the big league is never as charming as someone sneaking their way in through sheer wit, smarts or imagination.

Despite all the YouTube views, this ad misses a trick. It says almost nothing about the airline's values, experience or brand, beyond signalling that it has a lot of money. The only point made in the ad is that it serves a nice ice cream. Virgin did the ice-cream thing with a lot more wit and charm decades ago, so it doesn't exactly make the viewer feel that Turkish Airlines is going to offer anything particularly innovative or sophisticated.

The pay-off feels pretty lame too. The best fly with Europe's best airline. Says who? What about Swiss or Lufthansa, British Airways or Virgin? I don't really believe it. On doing a bit of digging (which no one in the real world would), I discovered that it was actually named 'Best Airline Europe' at the 2011 World Airline Awards, voted on by more than 18.8m airline passengers from 100 different nations. So perhaps Turkish Airlines is better than I thought.

The real test, though, is that, by coincidence, I am flying to Istanbul next week. Turkish Airlines has frequent flights at convenient times. But who have I chosen to fly with? British Airways.

Brand strategy verdict

Incredible reach, but does it really say anything about the brand beyond 'We have deep pockets'?

6 out of 10

- Which of the following TV commercials do you remember seeing recently?

table headerAdwatch (24 Jan) Total Recall: Turkish Airlines
Latest rank Jan-24 Brand Agency/TV buyer Recall
1 1 Argos 



2= 5 Marks & Spencer  RKCR Y&R/Walker Media 41
2= 2 Littlewoods  St Luke's/Carat 41
2= 12 Aldi 

McCann Manchester/

UM Manchester

5 4 Very.co.uk  St Luke's/Carat 38
6 6 Isme  Contagious Content/Carat 36
7= 20 Homebase  Leo Burnett/Mindshare 33
7= - BT 

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO/


9 - National Lottery (EuroMillions) 

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO/


10 3 Tesco  Wieden & Kennedy/Initiative 29
11 - The Co-operative 

Leo Burnett/

PHD Rocket

12= - Turkish Airlines 


MPG Media Contacts

12= 13= Morrisons  DLKW Lowe/MEC 26
14 - WH Smith  DLKW Lowe/Carat 25
15= - KFC  BBH/Walker Media 23
15= - HP Envy x2  BBDO, Tag/M2M 23
17= - Halfords  DLKW Lowe/Walker Media 22
17= 15= Currys/PC World  M&C Saatchi/Walker Media 22
19= - Superdrug  Uber/ZenithOptimedia 21
19= - Plenty  Publicis/Carat 21

Adwatch research was conducted from 11-14 January 2013 by TNS as part of its twice-weekly OnLineBus omnibus among 1000 adults aged 16-64. For details of the survey, contact Bob.Salmons@tnsglobal.com (020 7160 5550). Advertisements were compiled by Ebiquity (020 7650 9700) and Mediaedge:cia UK (020 7803 2000).


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